Christmas decorations start going up on stores, office buildings and private homes in New York City right after Thanksgiving. The decorations are sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate. No matter, they put a smile on my face and help me get into the spirit of the season. I’m sure they do the same for others, which is why there are usually scores of people milling around.
Each Christmas, this building on 6th Avenue near 50th Street decorates with these large red balls but every year when I see them, it feels like the first time (at least to me). A little Christmas magic, perhaps?
Up to 70% off all cameras, the sign screamed, its bright red letters unmistakable against the white background. It could have been there for months but on that day late last year, it drew me in.
I’d heard about them before I even moved to New York – these stores around Times Square that pull you in with the promise of good deals on electronic items. For years, I never even looked their way. Then, on an impulse, and thinking I was immune to the hard sell, I walked in.
Yes, young lady. What can I help you with today?
Just looking, I said, in my best I’m-not-interested voice.
You looking for a phone? camera? We’ve got the iPhone, iPad and all the cameras, all on sale. Seventy percent off. You looking for a camera?
At this point, I thought, what the heck?
Yes, I’m looking for a camera, I replied nonchalantly.
What kind of camera?
Canon, I told him.
Well, the Canon’s a good camera, but you’ve got to try this one.
One of the sure signs that Christmas is around the corner is the flowering of the pigeon peas. Also known as gandules, they are called gungo or pigeon peas here in Jamaica and are the essential ingredient in the rice and peas dish most families prepare on special occasions and, in particular, on Christmas Day.
The pigeon pea originated in eastern India and was brought to east and west Africa, and eventually to the Americas by African slaves probably around the 17th century. It has been cultivated for at least 3,500 years.
Small in size and light green or white in color, the pigeon pea takes on a light brown hue when it’s been dried. Besides its use in rice and peas, pigeon peas can also be used in soups.
Pigeon peas are rich in protein, fiber and essential amino acids.
What fascinates me about the pigeon pea is the plant. The leaves look velvety and the ‘flowers’ are so colorful, they look as if they could be cut and put in a vase. These ‘blooms’ will last about a week then will be replaced by pods that are long and have individual pockets that hold each pea. Each pod can hold up to 8 peas, and grow in bunches of 5 to 7.
The green pigeon peas can be frozen for later use. When cooked, they have a slightly different taste from the dried ones.
Have you tried pigeon peas?
This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.
I love fish, especially red snapper and salmon but I’ve found a new love lately: the lionfish. I’d been hearing about the lionfish since I arrived here last year but I was nervous to try it.
From news reports, I learned that the colorful spiky fins of the lionfish are full of venom and that makes them deadly to other fish and potentially dangerous to fishermen and swimmers. If stung, the venom can cause a variety of illnesses from numbness, pain, nausea, headaches, redness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, fever, and vomiting to, in rare cases, heart failure and death.
No, there was no way I wanted to endanger my health by eating lionfish.
But I kept hearing more and more from people who’d eaten lionfish, without ill effects, and my curiosity began slowly to overcome my initial apprehension. A few weekends ago, I decided to give it a try.
Doors cover entrances. They provide protection, separate one space from another, and allow free movement in and out.
They can be small or large, ornate or plain, narrow or wide, keyed or sliding, swinging or revolving, open or closed. They can even be false.
Doors can be made of wood, iron, glass or mesh, and have knobs, handles, pulls, plates or nothing at all. Whatever their composition or design, they describe motion. They also tell us something about their owners and about the places they guard; some even inspire narratives.
Automatic doors test our faith – will they open when we approach?
Glass doors sometimes propel us beyond the immediate moment, causing us focus on the inside, our destination. Have you ever walked into one? It snaps your attention right back to the present.
Entrances and doors have been used as metaphors for hope, opportunity and inspiration. An open door suggests welcome. We recall happy times, laughter, and loved ones. A closed door piques curiosity. There’s mystery there, or is there? It can also suggest a missed opportunity. There’s no mystery, however, when one’s been shut or slammed in your face.
Our lives are a series of entrances and exits.
How many entrances and doors will you walk through today?
One of the smallest parishes in Jamaica, St. Mary has been home to the powerful and the famous. James Bond came to life in the St. Mary home of his creator, Ian Fleming, and Noel Coward lived and entertained at GoldenEye.
St. Mary is located next door to the parish of St. Ann, and is approximately 2 hours from Kingston.
Its capital, Port Maria, was the site of the most serious rebellion in Jamaica’s history. The 1760 revolt spread almost island-wide. Five years later, another rebellion in the parish was suppressed.
St. Mary was also the location, at Rio Nuevo, of the last battle between the English and the Spanish, who fled to Cuba after their defeat. A monument commemorating to the English leader, General Doyley and the last Spanish Governor, Don Cristobal Ysassi, was erected to commemorate the take-over.
Following the decline of sugar production, the parish turned to bananas and began shipping them from Port Maria, Annotto Bay and Oracabessa as early as 1887, making Jamaica the first commercial exporter of bananas in the Western Hemisphere.
In addition to bananas and its famous former residents, St. Mary is also known for the beautiful James Bond Beach, and White River and Wag Water Rivers.
St. Mary is also the location, at Boscobel, of Jamaica’s third international airport, named for Ian Fleming. It was opened in January, 2011.
Brimmer Hall – Located in Port Maria, Brimmer Hall produces bananas and coconuts. There’s a pool, gift shops, restaurant and a bar.
Castleton Gardens – Established in 1865, Castleton Gardens was once the most richly stocked botanical gardens in the Caribbean. About 400 specimens from Kew Gardens in London were transplanted there. Castleton is located approximately 20 miles from Kingston. Admission is free, however tips for the guides are welcomed. Combine with a visit to the Wag Water River.
Firefly – Noel Coward fell in love with Jamaica in 1948 while on holiday at Ian Fleming’s GoldenEye. He eventually moved from his first house, Blue Harbor, which had become a popular spot for his celebrity friends, to Firefly, the house he had built. Coward is buried at Firefly. The property is now a historic site owned partly by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, and the Noel Coward Estate.
Golden Eye – The former home of James Bond’s Ian Fleming, Golden Eye is now owned by former Island Records owner, Chris Blackwell, who has kept it furnished as Fleming left it. Unfortunately, bus tours are not allowed.
Wag Water River – The Wag Water originates in the parish of St. Andrew, flows through St. Mary, and empties out into the sea near Annotto Bay in the parish. Combine with a trip to Castleton.
White River Rafting – Take a leisurely rafting trip down the White River to Dunn’s River Falls. Your hotel can arrange a tour with a rafting company.
Less than 20 minutes from the Montego Bay International Airport, we ditch the car and begin what turns out to be a 50-minute hike up into the hills overlooking the second city.
Within minutes of leaving the main road, we are surrounded by dense vegetation. All around are mahogany, cedar, mango and other trees, many of which no one in my party recognizes, small clumps of sugar cane, succulent and creeping plants, moss and vines. The trees grow close together and straight up in an effort to find the sun. Their leaves form a protective canopy.
It is cool here – at least a degree or two below what it is in town. The air is fresh and clean.
We leave the feeder road and take a path that is wide enough for one person, or a donkey, the only mode of transporting heavy loads in these remote areas.
Pipes taking potable water stop at the road. There’s no electricity, and the only people we see are the ones in our party.
Each careful step takes us higher into hills, further away from the noise of the city. Except for the sounds of the birds chirping above, it is peaceful here. I have to remind myself that another Jamaica exists just beyond the trees.
We spot a neat little house, fronting a lush vegetable garden, its doors and windows open but not a soul, not even a dog is in sight. Sometimes, when his farms is in a remote area, a farmer will build a hut nearby with a bed and a kitchen in case he gets trapped by rain, but this isn’t a hut. I wonder how people find these places and how they decide to build where there are no modern conveniences. Not even cell phones work.
But it’s the view that captivates. Through the clearing, we can see directly out to the airport and the hotels at Freeport. It feels like you can just reach out and touch them. We watch a plane descend slowly over the Caribbean Sea until it comes to a stop on the tarmac.
Men Are in Charge of the Cooking
By the time we arrive at our destination, cooking is well underway. It’s the men who typically do the cooking here in the bush. It’s their domain.
There’s curried goat, (the goat had been killed a few days before, cut up into chunks and left to marinade in curry, onions, thyme, garlic, pimento, salt and Scotch Bonnet peppers), rice and peas, roasted yam and breadfruit, dumplings, fried chicken, boiled green bananas, and yellow and white yams. All this will be washed down by copious amounts of JB (affectionately called, Jamaica’s Best) over proof rum, that promises to ‘come in like a lion but leave like a lamb, a Trojan horse in reverse.’
Between now and the end of the year, the bush around the island will come alive with events like these as Jamaicans begin to celebrate the holidays.
This is the Jamaica that visitors rarely see.
Hiking or running shoes are advisable here. We also wore long pants, and packed hats and mosquito repellant but there were no mosquitoes or bugs, and the trees provided shade.
Celebrated primarily in the U.S. and Canada, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks. In the US, it’s celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November; in Canada, the second Monday in October.
As with all celebrations, food figures prominently, more specifically, turkey with stuffing, accompanied by cranberry relish, macaroni and cheese, string beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin or pecan pie. We’re not big fans of turkey, so in our house, we usually serve some of our favorites: fish, seafood, pork, mutton.
Unfortunately, I have no photos of past meals, but I do have several of meals I’ve had during my travels. Some were in restaurants, others were at friends’ homes.
So in observance of the holiday in the U.S., please enjoy this selection.
Direct flights from Central Europe to Jamaica to begin soon
Tourism Minister, Dr. Wykeham McNeill announced recently that Transaero, Russia’s second largest carrier, will begin non-stop service from Moscow to Montego Bay starting January, 2013 and run for three months. Discussions continue to extend the flights into the summer.
Service has also been confirmed from the Czech Republic, Stockholm, and Paris.
Readers of Check In Magazine Vote Jamaica ‘Favourite Worldwide Destination’
Jamaica beat out more than 70 other destinations to take the ‘Favourite Worldwide Destination’ in the British Travel Awards’ (BTA) new online Check In magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.
Swimming is fun, and swimming in pools with such amazing views will make the dip a lot more inviting! Whether you want the jungles of Serengeti and Selous or the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, there are swimming pools out there that are destinations in their own right.
And here, JCCE Tours & Safaris Ltd presents to you Tanzania’s Top 8 Luxury Villa Venues with Plunge Pools in no particular order. Enjoy reading!
AMARA LUXURY TENTED CAMP – Selous
Located in the heart of the Selous Game Reserve, a mere few minutes’ drive away from the Simbazi airstrip, Amara Selous promises a taste of the extraordinary – an experience that is unique and revitalizing.
At Amara Selous, nature is merged with extravagance to provide lavish comfortable and secluded luxury in the middle of the African bush.
Twelve spacious air-conditioned suites are complete with private rock plunge pools, opulent bathrooms and outside showers that offer views over the Great Ruaha River and the perennial wilderness beyond.
Amara Selous remains beautifully remote, amidst the pristine wilderness of Africa’s largest game reserve and one of Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s where one awakes to a daily symphony of hippo snorts and birdsong.